The ending is the most important part of a film, a good ending can save an otherwise mediocre film and a bad ending can all but destroy a good one. But a good ending is really hard to craft and it can sometimes be really hard to know exactly where and when to end your film, and those are the films that we will be examining in this list, the films that didn’t quite know when to end.
This list will obviously be filled with SPOILERS for all featured movies as I’ll be talking about their endings and how they failed.
1. Ben-Hur (1959)
This film is a masterpiece, there is no doubt about it. It’s a beautifully crafted epic that is absolutely thrilling to watch and will burn itself into your memory and stay there for the rest of your life. But the story overstays it’s welcome and kind of weakens its own impact by doing so.
The film tells the story of Prince Judah Ben-Hur, who is betrayed by his childhood friend (and possibly ex-lover, the symbolism with the spears and the highly erotic look in their eyes as they meet for the first time in many years is so obvious that it’s impossible to miss) that leads to Ben-Hur being sentenced to the Galley’s and his family thrown in jail, which leads to a long and epic journey for revenge.
The film is 212 minutes long and the revenge is completed 177 minutes into the film, which means we still have 35 minutes of story to go, and it heads into a direction that at first is rather interesting. Ben-Hur’s family have suffered the horrible fate of becoming Lepers, information that Messala (Ben-Hur’s childhood friend/ex-lover) reveals with his dying breath.
Ben-Hur goes looking for them and finds them, but his new lover Esther bans him to revel himself to them because his family want him to remember them as they were and not as they have become, and if the film had ended right then and there it would have had an emotional powerhouse of an ending, a really bold and daring ending that would have perfectly showcased the destructive effects Messala’s betrayal had on the lives of everyone involved.
But instead they go to see Jesus and he uses his divine powers to force a happy ending onto this story. They had somewhat set this up throughout the movie by having a few scenes thrown in here and there where we see Jesus, and he even crosses paths with Ben-Hur at one point. But those scenes are pretty much only there so the film can eventually have a happy ending, and this weakens the film as the Jesus scenes are utterly pointless and the happy ending feels really forced and tacked on.
Had the film cut out the Jesus scenes and ended 20 minutes earlier then this masterpiece would have become even greater. But as it stands, it’s still a masterpiece, but a masterpiece that didn’t quite know when to end.
2. Savages (2012)
One thing that basically everyone agreed on when this film was released is that the ending sucks, and it sucks in a really uniquely awful way. This film is an interesting mess of a thing, there was obviously a lot of work put into it, but except for the actors everything else just went terribly wrong in some really weird ways.
The film tells the story of a three-way couple Ben, Chon and O, they grow and sell weed and are so successful that they draw the attention of a Mexican drug cartel run by Salma Hayek that tries to take over their business by having a really sleazy Benicio del Toro kidnap O, which puts into motion a year-long battle of wits that is so dull and drawn-out that the film becomes almost unwatchable once the story finally kicks in.
But luckily that doesn’t happen until about 40 minutes into this 130-minute-long mess, those first 40 minutes are pretty much plot-free and just follows the characters as they go about their daily lives, and it’s actually pretty good and decently entertaining, the narration by Blake Lively is a bit lifeless and does get tiring after a while but the actors are all just so perfectly cast that it’s a joy to see them get to inhabit these characters and do mundane stuff.
Taylor Kitsch has literally never been better and his particular brand of bland actually comes off as kind-of interesting when playing a slightly introverted soldier possibly maybe suffering from PTSD, Aaron Taylor-Johnsson is actually pretty great as a peace-loving care-free hippie, and Blake Lively is also pretty decent as O, but the best performances of this movie belong to Benicio del Toro as a sleazy and sadistic cartel member and Salma Hayek as his boss, John Travolta is also pretty damn good as a corrupt cop.
But the moment the story finally kicks in it all goes to shit pretty quickly and just keeps getting worse with each passing minute, and it doesn’t help that it’s all horribly directed, it’s really baffling how the once great Oliver Stone could assemble something this amateurishly thrown together and poorly shot.
Which is weird, because this film has all the right actor’s playing exactly the right roles but stuck in the wrong story directed by the wrong guy, had the film literally had any other story and had someone other than Stone directing it, it could have been pretty great. But as it stands, it’s a shitfest, and the ending is probably the worst thing about it.
We see all the characters meet up at one place to exchange hostages (Ben and Chon take Hayek’s daughter hostage and want to trade her for O) and it leads to a massive fire fight where basically everyone dies, and at the exact moment that you are thinking to yourself “wow, this is actually kind of bold, this film might possibly be better than I thought”, the film turns around and reveals that this was all happening inside O’s head and what actually happened was more akin to a clusterfuck than a fire fight because John Travolta had a change of heart at the last minute and arrested everybody, and to make things even worse we get a painfully long montage where O tells us through narration what happened to everyone and when it finally ends you’ll be glad it’s over, because then you can finally go and do something useful with your time.
The only way this film could be saved is if it just skipped the entire plot and settled on being a 40-minute-long short film about interesting but unrelated people connected to the drug trade, because everything that happens after the Mexicans kidnap O is awful, but if they really wanted to keep all of that then they should have gone with the first ending and just skipped the whole “it was all imaginary, here’s the real ending” bullshit, the first ending wasn’t really good, it was a pit tacky, overly dramatic and horribly filmed but it would have been a lot better than the unbelievably tedious ending they went with.
3. The Ridiculous 6 (2015)
This film sucks.
It’s an offensive, unfunny slog of a film that barely hangs together thanks to Dean Semler’s sometimes kind-of decent cinematography (he’s the same guy that filmed Mad Max 2 & 3, Cocktail, Young Guns 1 & 2, Dances with Wolves, Last Action Hero, We Were Soldiers and Apocalypto, but he’s also the guy that filmed the Super Mario Bros. Movie, K-9, Nutty Professor II: The Klumps, xXx, The Adventures of Pluto Nash, I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry, 2012 and Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2, so his career is kind of uneven to say the least), for the most part the film looks like shit but every now and then a shot appears that looks kind-of good or a scene is filmed in an interesting way, and seeing that someone actually put in some effort to make a few parts of this Trainwreck actually watchable makes it slightly easier to sit through, but it’s still an absolutely horrendous experience that no one in their right mind should force themselves through, unless you’re a cinematic masochist.
The story doesn’t matter, there are some brothers and they multiply with every passing scene until they’re six in total and they must make some money to pay for Nick Nolte (a description that could also describe the production of this pig shit), and it’s just a string of almost unrelated overlong, unfunny sketches that would even have been rejected by SNL on a bad day.
The only funny part of the film is the part where you realize they got Vanilla Ice to play Mark Twain, but other than that there isn’t a single funny joke in this film. The scene with John Turturro is the closest thing to a good joke we get and it’s ruined because the entire time you’re thinking “how in Zeus butthole did they get John Turturro to be in this shit”, the same goes for Steve Buscemi, Harvey Keitel, Nick Nolte and Danny Trejo.
One of the worst parts of the movie is when it looks like it’s over, they have gotten the money and have paid for Nick Nolte and are having a fatherly moment with him and you hope to god it’s finally over, and then you realize there are still 20 minutes left of the movie and they throw us an awful twist where it turns out that Nick Nolte is in fact evil and was just using this production as a get rich quick scheme, and then we get a painfully awful action climax that goes on forever and then once the evil Nolte has been defeated the brothers just go home and have a dance party, and that’s it.
They could have had a weak ending and a 100-minute runtime but instead they went with an even weaker ending and a 120-minute runtime, which makes this film even more of a chore to sit through.
4. Paranoid Park (2007)
Paranoid Park is almost a great film, 90% of it is great and the only place where it fumbles is in the last 10 minutes, but everything before that is pretty much perfect.
The film tells the non-linear story of a teenage skateboarder that accidentally kills a man and has to deal with the guilt. The story is brilliantly structured and it’s beautiful to see it all slowly come together, but then in the last 10 minutes the story fizzles out into nothing and it becomes utterly aimless and actually kind of boring, and then when it finally ends the only thing you’ll be able to think is: why didn’t this just end 10 minutes ago?
5. 25th Hour (2002)
This is a good film, not a great one but a good one.
The film tells the tale of Monty’s last day of freedom before he goes to jail for seven years and he is trying to tie up all loose ends, it’s an interesting story and the film has a great cast but it’s let down by Spike Lee’s sometimes down-right obnoxious visual style and weak sense for pacing, and at no part does that weakness show better than in the final montage.
It’s morning and Brian Cox (Monty’s father) is driving Monty to prison but then Cox suddenly starts a monologue that goes on forever. The worst part is that you get the point the film is trying to make not even one third of the way into the sequence but then it just keeps going and going and going and going and going and going and going and gong and going and going and going and going and going and going and going and going until you have completely lost all interest in what is happening and are just waiting for the film to end, and when it finally does you realize that this monologue didn’t actually mean anything and adds nothing to the film but screen time.